Thursday, May 8, 2008

Town Cars.

Robin Shelly said... "I don't know any of the Coombs family but somebody (my dad?) told me a story about Mal one time & how he used to drive a Cadillac car with the back seat removed so he could haul all his woods equipment (chain saw, gas, etc.) in it. Apparently, he drove it all over the hills & used it just like a pickup. Anybody remember that?"

Back in the fifties, the only road that had pavement was the 101 highway. Most of the logging roads were better maintained than the county roads. Often the loggers would build a section of road to bypass a particularly rough section of county road. Road traffic would start using the logging roads for regular traffic.

Both of the present day Alderpoint road and the Eel Rock road were built by loggers. I, ahem, had part in building both of those roads. I was the kid on the ground that changed the angle and tilt on the blade. Back when it was done manually, with jack screws on the blade braces. The fact that we had modern adjustable dozer blades was a big deal at the time, it was state-of-the-art equipment.

Previous to the modern Alderpoint route, a person had to go to Harris and turn back north to Alderpoint. The road from the top of the hill that goes straight down to Alderpoint was called the “Alderpoint cut-off". It was built by the loggers and lumber mill people.

It wasn't unusual to see a logging company straighten a corner or two on a weekend. Usually they would ask the ranchers that owned the land if it was okay to build roads through their lands. The answer was always "Sure, go ahead!" The ranchers looked forward to having roads on their land, it made their job easier, and increased the value of their land. Often the ranchers wouldn't allow loggers to pass through their land unless they improved the roads. The agreements were made about as fast as it took you to read this, and it was sealed with a handshake. Times have changed a little in the last fifty years haven't they?

Most of the Southern Humboldt, Northern Mendocino lumber barons drove Cadillac cars. Some drove Buick cars that Charles S. Howard made famous. Howard was a Buick dealer in San Francisco. He was popular because he stabled Sea Biscuit, the world famous race horse, in Willits. Howard also built the first modern hospital in Northern Mendocino. Howard was a very popular legend because of his fame with racing Sea Biscuit. Two loggers that I remember was Mal Coombs and Axle Erickson, that drove their Cadillac cars in the woods.

It wasn’t only difficult to keep a car nice, it was impossible. Some of the wealthy families kept cars that were only used on the highway 101 and in the cities. They were know as “Town Cars”.


Anonymous said...

Wow, you nailed it with this one.
The main roads through Eastern Humboldt were built by loggers. And we ended up being so much better for it. My dad, a Forest Service employee, always fought the idea of closing the logging roads and creating a roadless area. He remembered when you couldn't get anywhere off of Highway 299. The Salyer/Mad River road and Highway 1 forest service roads are major arteries through the back country and well maintained. Even paved in some places.

The new era bureaucrats would have a field day with the way things were done back then. Hell, would probably be spending most of your life in prison for all of the infractions you did.

Ah yes, the Cadillac owners in Eastern Humboldt were all logging company owners. Even the Gypo loggers. A Cadillac was the sign of status. And the old timer logging families still have a Cadillac for the wife.

Ernie Branscomb said...

Gee Eko, You're making me blush!

The only road that I know of that was built for anything but logging and ranching was highway 101.

The first thing that my uncle Ben did after he built his mill and became successful, was buy himself a brand new 1952 Buick Roadmaster.

The thing that I remember the most about the car is it had a radio in it. There was a knob in the center top of the windshield that you could swing the antenna up in the air with, or swing it upside down to park in the middle of the windshield when you were through with it. It had four little holes in the side of the front fender instead of just three. Cool stuff for a six year old kid!

I added a photo at the bottom of the post.

Anonymous said...

Well I don't remember Mal's Cadillac but I do remember the Ford station wagons he drove. When brand new he would spit his tabbaco on the floor next to the dimmer switch.
And for the roads, there was a time the end of the road South of Ruth ended at Blue Jay Mine and it was half a days ride to Little Doe Camp on a slow horse. Then they, (Forest Service, loggers built) a road all the way through so just about anybody could go there. Then is was oiled so a person could road hunt in a Corvette it they had a mind to. Damn loggers anyway. Some places are sacred but as you said, times change.
How many of you out there have stood on top of Shell Mountain? On a clear day you see Mt. Lassen, Mt. Shasta and when the sun is low in the West you can see the water of the Specific Ocean.